Cook: Voting the Democrat ballot

Cook: Voting the Democrat ballot

May 6th, 2014 by David Cook in Opinion Columns

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David Cook

Photo by Ashlee Culverhouse/Times Free Press.

It's a lonely, defeated feeling. You hang your head, like a Vol fan in late October.

Take today's ballot. (Please).

Republicans in Hamilton County are fielding 38 candidates. A fat flush of 38 names appears on today's Republican ballot. That's a major league baseball team.

Democrats?

To the Republican 38-man roster (and yes, all but seven are men), the Democrats are fielding only 16 candidates. That's a carpool.

There are 29 races on today's ballot. Republicans have candidates in 26 of them.

And Democrats have candidates in 11 of them.

There are 18 races without one Democratic candidate. Most of our races (yes, I normally reach for a Democratic ballot) aren't fielded; there's only one bubble for us to fill in: "No Candidate Qualified."

If you vote Democrat today, the candidate you'll be voting for most often is no candidate at all.

Nobody for sheriff. Zippo for two of the three Criminal Court judge slots. Nobody for county mayor. Only one for four Circuit Court judge positions, and that candidate -- Stuart James -- has already dropped out.

"I have made the decision to permanently suspend my campaign," he said in March, just after the deadline for withdrawal, which is why his name appears -- satirically -- on today's ballot.

Let's say you live in a part of town that doesn't have any Democratic candidate running for County Commission. You will only have to make one single choice today: Gwen Tidwell or Brian White, both running for Criminal Court clerk. Every other race? All the candidates are running unopposed (it's not really a choice if there's no one to choose against) or there's no candidate listed.

The Republican ballot is stuffed, like Rush on Thanksgiving, and pretty much every other day of the year.

Our ballot has echoes. Helloooo? Our ballot sounds like a kickball game: ghost man for sheriff!

It shouldn't be this way. We're not ebola. Local Democrats matter as much as Republicans. We've got Ardena Garth, who's running for public defender, and is one of the toughest and smartest women this side of the Bering Strait. She ought to be public defender, and mayor, and sheriff, too.

In one race, we're fielding three top people -- Kirkland Robinson, Warren Mackey and Pam Ladd -- all for one county commissioner spot. Each of those folks should be eyeing an open position somewhere else: board of education, the commission, Ladd For Mayor.

But here in Hamilton County, Democrats have become an afterthought. We're the forgotten ones. Garfunkel to your Simon, the Gang to your Kool.

Primaries are supposed be the appetizer for fall elections, the opening gambit so that political dueling can begin. But really, today is the election. In 18 races on the ballot today, the Republican winner will waltz into office simply because there is no Democratic challenger.

It's a terrible thing for an election to go to waste.

Even though I lean to the left -- as does the human heart, positioned on the left side of our chests -- we should all be troubled from such a lop-sided, lollygagging ballot.

Politics needs a packed house, a full and wide spectrum of beliefs that challenges, increases and broadens our perspectives. Your Republican-ness should challenge my liberalism, and vice versa. None of us exist without the other.

That big mindedness is the Jaws of Life that pries us out of the narrow political narrative, one that falsely positions us in a dualistic, either-or landscape.

You're not just a Republican. Or only a Democrat. Don't sell yourself so short. We are not a one-party people.

Our truest selves are a mishmash of conservative and liberal, progressive and not, Clinton and Bush, Nader and Marx.

We are complex, intricate and vast people who ought to search out ways to agree with ideas across the aisle. We should be ashamed at our political "Kramer vs. Kramer" irreconcilability. The greatest danger we face as a people is this political division, for until it is solved, no other problem can get solved.

Tonight, one party may win the election, but we all lose.

Contact David Cook at dcook@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter at DavidCookTFP.